Natalie Southwick
September 29, 2015 2:42 pm

The last thing you want to deal with in a medical emergency is worrying whether the EMTs or doctors treating you have important information about allergies or other conditions that could affect how you get care — or if you survive.

Many people deal with this by wearing medical alert bracelets or carrying information in their wallets, but bracelets and cards can get lost, broken or become unreadable with water damage or other kinds of damage.

One southwestern tattoo artist has a foolproof solution, though: Tattoo the information on your body, for free.

Shawn “Bounty” Cherry, who owns Dark Cherry Tattoos in Ruidoso, New Mexico, recently started offering free medical tattoos to clients as a way to give back to his community.

“Bracelets can get lost in an accident,” Cherry explained to the Ruidoso News. “Other people cannot wear jewelry. These medical tattoos are still new, but nationally, EMTs and first responders are starting to look for them.”

Some of the most common medical tattoos are for conditions like diabetes, seizure disorders and severe allergies.

The offer is especially generous considering how expensive tattoos can be, with higher-end studios charging upwards of $75 for even the most basic designs.

Cherry’s designs for medical tattoos are simple, but customers can pay for more intricate ones if they want to — although they should be careful that the design isn’t so complicated or vague that it makes the important information hard to decipher.

“If I saw somebody who came in and had a tattoo that said ‘diabetes,’ I’d think that this guy probably has diabetes, but who knows?” Dr. Mark Reiter, president of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, told US News. “Maybe it was that his mom had diabetes, and he was trying to make a statement.”

According to Reiter, one issue is that first responders aren’t necessarily trained to look for medical tattoos, so they may not pay attention to someone’s ink as an indication of a medical condition. Especially as tattoos have become more common among the general population, most paramedics aren’t going to examine every square inch of a patient in case they have “deathly allergic to peanuts” written on their foot.

Still, medical tattoos can be a life-saver (literally) for some. One artist in California recalled tattooing a 15-year-old boy with diabetes (with his parents’ permission, of course) who couldn’t wear a bracelet because he was allergic to metals.

While there are no precise statistics on the popularity of medical tattoos, medical professionals and tattoo artists alike unofficially estimate that they’re becoming more common. It seems that, even if they can wear medical alert bracelets or carry other medical information with them, plenty of people out there probably figure an additional, very permanent means of informing doctors about potentially life-threatening medical conditions can’t hurt — figuratively, at least!

[Image: via Facebook.]

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